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Apr 30 17

Happy springtime! Had a busy schedule lately, so I thought it was time I posted a free story. “Mr. Kroll” is a dark flash fiction tale about a witch’s familiar, originally published back in 2003. I hope you like it.


“MR KROLL” by Debbie Kuhn

I believe I was once a man. That would explain the strange memories that live in my dreams. My special awareness, my ability to understand humans, comes from the demon spirit that resides in me now – though I am not certain if I was reincarnated for this purpose or changed into a feline and a familiar through witchcraft.

Only black cats like me have nine lives. It’s a mystical ability and, truthfully, it would be more accurate to call them nine chances. But there is only one way for us to cheat death.

Oh, yes, I am much older than I should be.

My beloved mistress, Marantha, died far too soon. She was born a witch, and if that made her evil, it was not by choice. She studied spells and curses, but also healed the sick.

What happened to her was my fault.

We were living a peaceful existence in a cottage just outside of Devington. In the summer of 1701, that English village was still growing, and it bustled with great activity at week’s end.

One Saturday afternoon, as I lay on a sunny windowsill sniffing the lilac-scented air, my mistress entered the tidy kitchen and addressed me with her musical voice.

“I need to sell some herbs and tonics today, Mr. Kroll.” She stroked the sleek fur along my back and smiled into my knowing green eyes. “Would you like to be my company?”


We could read other’s thoughts whenever necessary.

The two of us started off on the mile long walk and took the dusty dirt road that led to Devington. My mistress swung her large, round basket to and fro, and sang a lilting tune in a language I did not understand. Her lustrous long hair – as black as a moonless midnight – fanned out behind her in the warm breeze.

Marantha’s perfect features always attracted attention in the village. Men of all ages would pause in their daily activities to watch the young healer’s graceful, shapely figure as she carried out her errands. They openly admired her wavy dark tresses, her heavenly blue eyes, and the creamy fairness of her skin.

All the women stared at her with jealousy in their hearts. Soon I would give them a reason to be rid of her forever.

“Meet me here before sunset, Mr. Kroll,” my mistress said, as we reached the edge of town.

I went my own way, exploring the underbelly of the noisy village, scrounging for interesting food scraps and hunting rats that were almost tame. The mongrels running loose did not concern me. My presence terrified them.

It was the shiny crystals that caused my carelessness. They hung in a shop’s open window across the way, swinging gently in the wind, glinting in the sun. They mesmerized me.

I sprinted into the road and was caught up under a carriage wheel. It threw me clear, leaving me in agony. An ordinary cat would have died outright.

I forced myself to lie quietly for several minutes, gathering my strength and gaining control over the pain. No bones had been broken, but the damage to my organs was considerable. Finally, I struggled to a standing position and limped down a cluttered alley, using my powerful sense of smell to find what I needed.

I slowly climbed a stack of broken wooden crates to reach the ledge of an open window. Inside the stuffy room, an infant slept unattended on a cot, surrounded by rolled up blankets. I crept over to the bed and pulled myself up.

His damp gown smelled of sweat and harsh soap. I straddled his wee chest, but he did not awake. The crustiness on his lips was dried mother’s milk. When I began licking it off, the baby opened his mouth, and I covered it with my own.

I sucked my breath in and pulled his life force out. The invisible hot stream flowed into me and I could feel my injuries begin to heal.

Then I heard the mother scream. She knocked me off her baby with a broom handle and chased me out the window.

I was well enough to flee, and I headed for home in the gathering darkness. If I had not been interrupted the internal healing would have been complete. Eventually I would have to seek out another life force.

I entered the cottage through the open kitchen window and found my mistress in the front room, reading a thick, leather-bound book by candlelight.

She looked up in relief when I sauntered in. “Mr. Kroll, I knew you’d be all right, you naughty, careless feline.”

I curled up in her lap and allowed myself to purr.

Less than an hour later they came, surrounding the cottage, holding their fiery torches high.

“Show yourself, witch! You and your familiar!”

That was Hester the nosy seamstress. I recognized her deep, croaking voice.

Marantha opened the heavy wooden door and faced the angry mob. Most of them were women, with a few harried husbands standing in back.

“Friends, why are you here?”

“Oh, ain’t we the innocent one now,” Hester sneered. “Your demon cat was caught stealing a babe’s soul this very night.”

The women surrounded Marantha and held her prisoner while the men searched the cottage. They found the evidence they were looking for – a book of witchcraft.

Hester took the tome from her husband and held it high before the crowd. “The witch must burn! She must pay for her sins in Hell!”

I slipped past the mob and climbed an oak, watching helplessly as they bound Marantha’s hands and feet and carried her back into the cottage.

They set the house ablaze and then stayed to watch the spectacle. The women’s hard faces were lit with malicious glee. I heard Marantha’s agonized, heartrending screams, felt her blinding fear, and I couldn’t bear to linger.

There was someplace I needed to go, something I needed to do.

Hester had a baby daughter.


Mar 29 17

Climb aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California for the Horror Writers Association’s 2nd annual StokerCon event, April 27 – 30, 2017.


The gala presentation of the Bram Stoker Awards

Final Frame Film Festival and Competition

Horror University Writing Workshops and Panels

Author Signings

Dealers Room

The Ann Radcliffe Academic Conference

Librarians’ Day


George R.R. Martin, Stephen Graham Jones

Nancy Holder, Elizabeth Hand

Chuck Wendig, Gretchen McNeil

Tananarive Due, Bill Bridges

Peter Crowther …and many more.

Full details here.


Feb 28 17

Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis is the twelfth installment of Anne Rice’s long-running series The Vampire Chronicles. A full cast of familiar characters (alive, dead and undead) are present, interacting with and worshiping the irresistible Lestat de Lioncourt, who is now Prince of all vampires left in existence.

And whatever happens to Lestat, happens to them. This is a key issue in the latest book. Now that Lestat is the host body for Amel – the powerful spirit who represents the magical core of vampirism – he must fight to stay in control and heed the danger he now poses to his kind. It’s a love/hate relationship.

Complicating matters is Lestat’s old enemy, Rhoshamandes, who has discovered the existence of a race of fantastical beings who pose a threat to the entire vampire species. Rice really shows off her imaginative skills with the introduction of these new beings and their origin – and scenes of their wondrous, doomed kingdom.

However, there is a point in the latter part of the story where the pace slows down and rarely picks back up again. For this reason, I wouldn’t recommend the book for any reader who isn’t already a die-hard fan of the series. As for the ending, it was almost too well-resolved – and I didn’t find myself thinking, “What will happen next?”

My favorite parts of the novel were the chapters told from Lestat’s point of view. The scenes between him and his beloved Louis took me back in time to the original books. Of course, most of the characters were, as usual, emotionally expressive. I’ve rarely met a Rice character, male or female, who didn’t pour their hearts out at every opportunity.

Will readers ever get enough of the Brat Prince? Eventually, maybe, but I don’t think I ever will. The esteemed author has hinted at a 13th installment of this popular series. I will have no choice but to read it.

I give Rice’s latest novel 4 out of 5 stars for die-hard fans – and 3 out of 5 stars for new readers.


Jan 31 17

February is Women in Horror Month – a celebration of dark fiction and scary films created by (or starring) women. Several websites are celebrating the event by posting interviews, stories, film clips, etc.

I’ve made a list of my favorite places on the Internet to visit in February:

Women in Horror Month: www.womeninhorrormonth.com

Big Time Books: www.bigtimebooks.com

Killer Podcast: www.attackofthekillerpodcast.com

Killer Horror Cast: @KillerfromSpace

Digital Fiction Pub: www.digitalfictionpub.com

Halloween Daily News: www.halloweendailynews.com

Horror Homeroom: www.horrorhomeroom.com

Screaming Film Club: @screamingfilm

Cine Dump: www.cinedump.com

Blogferatu: www.blogferatu.com

Horror World: www.horrorworld.org

The Horror Tree: www.horrortree.com

There are many other sites. Simply do a search online for Women in Horror Month and you’ll find plenty more places that are celebrating the event.

And check back here at the end of February for my review of Anne Rice’s latest novel in the Vampire Chronicles: “Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis.”


Dec 31 16

hero_train-to-busan-2016As I stand on the threshold of 2017 and look back at 2016, I have to admit it was a good year for horror flicks. Sadly, I’ve seen far fewer of them in the last twelve months than I’d like.

Of the movies I did manage to watch, here are my top five favorites in no particular order:

The Witch 

Banished from their New England settlement due to religious intolerance, a farmer (Ralph Ineson), his wife (Kate Dickie) and their five children build a home for themselves in the wilderness. Right away they sense something evil lurking in the dark forest nearby.

Paranoia sets in when the baby, Samuel, disappears while his teenage sister, Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), is playing with him near the edge of the forbidding woods. Twin siblings, Mercy and Jonas, accuse their older sister of witchcraft – and soon suspicion starts to unravel their lives while unsettling things continue to plague the family. Did someone make a deal with the Devil? Is the witch in the forest real, or is she living among them?

The Autopsy of Jane Doe

You don’t see too many horror movies these days set entirely in a morgue. This flick pulls it off in an admirable way. I was surprised to discover that Norwegian director Andre Ovredal was responsible – having seen his movie Trollhunter, which was so completely different. (And I liked it, too.) On a dark and stormy night (so appropriate) in a family-owned mortuary, a father and son (played by Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch) perform an autopsy on the body of a Jane Doe, found at a violent crime scene. The mysterious victim has a lot of secrets to tell, and as the night progresses, things become more and more sinister for the two men who are trying to uncover the startling truth.

Don’t Breathe

A bit of a twist: intruders break into the house of an older blind man, and they end up being terrorized by him instead. The gentleman has issues, and that means more fun  and chills for viewers – and at least one truly shocking scene that I won’t soon forget. (Jane Levy and Stephen Lang are both awesome.)

Train to Busan

Probably my favorite zombie flick of the last five years, this Korean film by director Yeon Sang-ho is non-stop, nail-biting entertainment. Divorced manager Seok-woo (Gong Yoo) is too busy to attend his daughter’s singing recital. To make it up to her, for her birthday he gives in to her request to visit her mother in Busan. But as they board the train in Seoul, a plague breaks out that threatens to destroy all the passengers – and the world.

10 Cloverfield Lane

This sequel to Cloverfield is nothing like the original film, which I liked, but I am willing to say that it’s much better. Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) wakes up after a terrible accident to find that she’s locked in a cellar with a doomsday prepper, who insists that he saved her life and that the world outside is uninhabitable following an apocalyptic catastrophe. Uncertain what to believe, she becomes more and more suspicious and determined to escape the hideout no matter what might await her on the outside. John Goodman is fantastic in his role as the father figure survivalist who “rescues” her.

Other movies I have not seen that have been recommended by friends and critics alike:

The Eyes of My Mother

The Forest

The Wailing

The Conjuring 2


Lights Out

The Neon Demon

Happy New Year! May 2017 be a stellar year for horror once again.


Nov 30 16

lg_scary-santa-450x300And once again, the holiday season is upon us. Like many of you who celebrate Christmas, every year when I hear that Andy Williams song “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” I always wonder about the lyrics that say, “There’ll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago.” Christmas isn’t usually a time for horror tales, but there are movies and TV shows that beg to differ. I’ve decided to post an updated list of my favorites.

“And All Through the House” – Tales From the Crypt (British TV Series/1972)

The first time I saw this old episode on late night TV, I couldn’t help but be impressed. Joan Collins stars as a wife without good cheer who murders her husband with a fireplace poker on the night before Christmas. As she’s trying to dispose of the body, an escaped homicidal maniac dressed as Santa tries to break into her house. Alas, she can’t call the police because she’s just committed a dirty deed. Love it!

Black Christmas (Movie/1974)

Directed by Bob Clark and written by A. Roy Moore, this Canadian film is widely believed to be one of the earliest slasher flicks, and supposedly influenced the making of Carpenter’s Halloween.   Olivia Hussey, Margot Kidder and John Saxon have starring roles. A deranged killer hides out in the attic of a sorority house, stalking and murdering the sisters one by one. I liked this film a lot better than Silent Night, Deadly Night. 

Gremlins (Movie/1984)

Everyone is probably familiar with this flick. A salesman (Hoyt Axton) buys his son Billy (Zach Galligan) a magwai for Christmas. But the cute, furry little creatures have a very dark side, and if you feed them after midnight or get them wet, you will find out how much trouble they can be. Of course, Billy can’t follow the rules, and his town soon suffers the consequences. Phoebe Cates also stars as Billy’s girlfriend. (Her story about her dad’s odd, gruesome death struck me as funny, though it wasn’t meant to be.)

A Christmas Carol (TV Movie/1984)

Yeah, I know. Dickens isn’t scary, really, but there are some spooky moments in the beginning, when Ebenezer Scrooge (played by George C. Scott) is visited by his late business partner, Jacob Marley. I love this movie despite the sentimentality, and this is my favorite version out of all of them. But still, I often ask myself why I let Tiny Tim gut me like a fish every December.

“How The Ghosts Stole Christmas” – The X Files (TV Series/Season 6, Episode 6/1998)

The X Files is one of my favorite TV shows of all time. In this holiday offering, agents Mulder and Scully end up investigating a house on Christmas Eve that’s supposedly haunted by a pair of doomed lovers who killed themselves eighty-odd years before. Ed Asner and Lily Tomlin are wicked and delightful as the ghost couple, Maurice and Lyda. The two string the FBI agents along, while providing insights into Mulder and Scully’s relationship and personalities. This episode is in my top ten favorites.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (Movie/2010)

This is a Finnish film, based on the premise that Santa Claus has always been evil. (Think of the early European myth of the horned Yule Goat who demanded gifts on Christmas Eve, and who worked with a sidekick called Krampus – a half-goat, half-demon creature who punished naughty children.) Trouble starts when an archaeologist digs up Santa’s old tomb. Now no one in the Finnish village is safe. This flick is a mix of horror, fantasy and comedy – definitely off-kilter.

Krampus (Movie/2015)

Written and directed by Michael Dougherty, this one seemed like a cross between Gremlins and the Finnish film A Christmas Tale. There was no gore to speak of, due to its PG-13 rating, but I did enjoy its dark humor.  (Especially from “Aunt Dorothy” – played by Conchata Ferrell. Toni Collette and Adam Scott also have leading roles.) When his dysfunctional family clashes over the holidays, young Max (Emjay Anthony) is disillusioned and turns his back on Christmas. Little does he know, this lack of festive spirit has unleashed the wrath of Krampus: a demonic force of ancient evil intent on punishing non-believers. All hell breaks loose as beloved holiday icons take on a monstrous life of their own, laying siege to the fractured family’s home and forcing them to fight for each other if they hope to survive. This film isn’t something I’d plan on watching every year, but it’s worth seeing at least once.

And there you have it. Speaking of spooky tales, if you like scary fiction, please check out my latest eBook release, available on Amazon and other online stores, called “The White Death and Other Ghastly Ghost Stories.” It definitely isn’t for kids!

Hope all of you have a safe and happy holiday season.


Oct 30 16

It’s my favorite time of year, so I’m posting an excerpt from the first dark tale in my collection, The White Death & Other Ghastly Ghost Stories. In the “The White Death,” a reluctant candy striper suffers through a night of hell in a hospital that used to treat tuberculosis victims. (The setting is my favorite haunted place in Louisville – Waverly Hills Sanatorium.)

Have yourself a wicked little Halloween.


Brenda Morris climbed out of her foster mother’s ’64 Buick Riviera and slammed the passenger door shut. She was supposed to have Thursday nights off, but the old bat was forcing her to fill in for another candy striper that’d gotten sick at the last minute.

Yeah, sick of working at a geriatric sanitarium, probably.

Brenda stalked away from the car without bothering to wave goodbye and headed towards the institution’s imposing main entrance.

She took a deep breath, savoring the brisk October air, and gazed up at the gothic monstrosity that was Woodhaven. A full moon hung so low over the hilltop structure that it appeared to teeter upon the bell-tower.

She stood still for a moment to admire the effect. “That’s just so bitchin’.”

A whirlwind of dry leaves skittered past her, and she exhaled slowly. No use putting it off any longer.

Brenda entered the ornate lobby and wrinkled her nose. One never got used to the cool mustiness and the smell of stale urine. Quite often, the pitiful moans of elderly residents could be heard echoing down the long hallways.

No wonder the place was short staffed.

Brenda climbed the winding staircase to the second floor. Before beginning her rounds, she paid a visit to one of the restrooms to wash her hands and run a comb through her auburn curls. She smiled ruefully at her reflection in the smudged mirror. The red and white striped apron made her look like a sweet, innocent fifteen-year-old.

Brenda’s foster mother – her seventh in so many years – no doubt wished it were true. The witch had busted her one too many times for smoking and sneaking out at night to meet up with The Wrong Crowd. She’d given Brenda an ultimatum: Volunteer at one of the local hospitals several evenings a week or spend some time in Juvenile Hall.

Brenda had picked Woodhaven because her dark nature was drawn to its morbid history. For several depressing decades it had been used as a sanatorium for those suffering from The White Death. Tuberculosis had claimed thousands of lives here – not including the suicides it had provoked among patients and nurses alike.

But, God, I’d rather die of a disease than grow old and useless, Brenda thought, leaving the restroom. She could hear a woman yelling just down the hall.

It was Mrs. Hauser in Room 212.

“Somebody help! She took it away! It’s mine and she stole it from me!”

Brenda reached the room and paused in the doorway, grimacing at the all too familiar sight. The old lady stood by her bed stark naked. She stared at Brenda with watery gray eyes full of righteous anger.

“Mrs. Hauser, calm down and tell me what happened.” Brenda hurried over and grabbed a blanket off the bed to wrap around the woman’s cold, saggy body.

“A strange little girl took my new robe. My pretty blue robe is gone – it’s gone and I want it back now!”

Brenda sighed. Mrs. Hauser was hallucinating again. It was probably another patient – they were always “borrowing” things from one other.

“Okay, stay here and I’ll go look for it. I’m sure the girl didn’t go very far.”

Brenda went back out into the hall, and a noise caused her to glance right, towards the elevator. Just before the doors slid shut she caught a glimpse of something blue.

Here we go.

Brenda hurried over and punched the UP button. Catching the person would be easier now. For some freaky reason, every elevator in the building insisted on visiting the basement first, no matter what floor was chosen.

She wasn’t really bothered by this fact – it just made the place more interesting.

Brenda listened to the distressing hum of the contraption as it ascended. It passed the first floor and then stopped. The doors opened slowly.
Empty. This meant the thief had gotten out on the basement level.

Well, they are loony, after all.

Brenda rode the elevator down and waited impatiently for the doors to open. When they did, she was grateful to see that the hall light had been left on. At least the morgue was located clear over on the other side of the basement.

Not that she was afraid of dead people. What could they do? It was the live ones that were scary.

As she exited the elevator, Brenda heard a cough behind her. She turned and looked as the doors began to close, but she saw no one.

The White Death & Other Ghastly Ghost Stories is available on Amazon (also B&N, iBooks, etc.):


NOTE: The book cover for The White Death & Other Ghastly Ghost Stories was created by the talented artist and photographer Danielle Tunstall. Visit her here.


Sep 30 16

“It’s a story about a troubled family,” a close friend said to me recently. “They’re ‘supernaturally’ dysfunctional.”

Okay. I was tired of the spooky-witch-in-the-woods trope, but I gave in to peer pressure and put The Witch (A New England Folk Tale) on my Netflix queue. To my surprise, I liked it a lot better than I thought I would. The “R” rated horror flick was written and directed by Robert Eggers.

The first thing that stood out to me about the movie was the powerfully disturbing musical score, composed by Mark Korven. Seriously, without it, the level of anxiety I felt during many of the scenes probably wouldn’t have been as high. Kudos also to the camerawork, which limited the audience’s access to what was happening just the way the characters experienced it.

And my friend was right – it’s a story about a troubled Calvinist family, circa 1630. Banished from their New England settlement due to religious intolerance, a farmer (Ralph Ineson), his wife (Kate Dickie) and their five children build a home for themselves in the wilderness. Right away they sense something evil lurking in the dark forest nearby.

Paranoia sets in when the baby, Samuel, disappears while his teenage sister, Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), is playing with him near the edge of the forbidding woods. Twin siblings, Mercy and Jonas, accuse their older sister of witchcraft – and soon suspicion starts to unravel their lives while unsettling things continue to plague the family. Did someone make a deal with the Devil? Is the witch in the forest real, or is she living among them?

The film blends witchcraft, black magic and possession together into a roiling cauldron of terror, resulting in shocking consequences for the God-fearing family.

The Witch (A New England Folk Tale) delivers many chill-inducing moments and scenes filled with palpable dread, and the actors are all excellent in their roles – especially Anya Taylor-Joy. I give it four out of five goblins.


Aug 31 16

It’s not too late to get tickets to the East Coast’s largest pop culture convention (and the second largest in the nation): New York City Comic Con (NYCC).

The event takes place this year from October 6 – 9, with a show floor featuring comics, graphic novels, anime, manga, video games, toys, movies and television. There will be Panels and Autograph Sessions along with screening rooms providing sneak peeks at films and television shows months before they hit the big and small screens. Many special guests will appear in the comic, literary and entertainment fields – writers, actors and artists.

Spotlight guests include Bruce Campbell, Adam West, Lucy Lawless, Peter Capaldi, Pearl Mackie, Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Jenna Coleman, Jonny Lee Miller, Lucy Liu, Tom Mison, Jon Bernthal, Carrie Fisher, Nichelle Nichols, Lee Majors, Stan Lee, Stephen Moffat, Chuck Wendig and many more.

Rooms are still available at several of the official hotels.

Check here for all the details.


Jul 31 16

It first started back in 2005 – two horror-loving friends with the same birthday (August 29) decided to have a “different” kind of party for themselves. Fast forward over a decade later: the event is now the world’s largest annual zombie “attack” walk, happening every August, always starting at 8:29 p.m. – no matter the weather, no matter what! For those who don’t know, a “Zombie Walk” is an event where thousands of people come dressed as a zombie and walk down the street just like they were starring in George Romero’s film Night of the Living Dead. (Last year, it was estimated that 35,000 zombies participated.)

The walk starts and ends in the Highlands area of Louisville, Kentucky (my fave part of the city). This year the meeting point will be at the corner of Bardstown Road and Eastern Parkway. Concerts and merriment start after 9:00 p.m. and continue until midnight. So, if you plan to be in or near the Derby City in late August, make sure you attend the zombie walk – even if you’d rather be a spectator or a “zombie hunter” instead. All are welcome.

This year the Zombie (Attack) Walk will take place on August 27. Check out the official links below for more info.

Zombie Walk

Zombie Attack!

Zombies unite!